I'm not really a fan of the center channel, although I favor the fantom center if it realistic. If I had a full blown HT room in a 10,000 sq ft home I guess I would.
16 responses Add your response
Depending on your setup, your seating arrangement, etc, results will vary. What is usually sacrificed is an anchored center image from dialog and such, as you sit off-center. This may or may not be a problem, depending - like I said...it's variables.
I think the majority of the time, unless you are a single listener, the center will anchor things, and give a more solid presentation in most situations.
Still, there are those die-hard audiophiles that simply want this setup to be better, for bias reasons I find. That said, I myself have put together some rather good sounding higher end 2.1 channel setups. So I do know it can sound good when done right. It's still mostly just the shifty dialog problem thingy mostly.
To my surprise it's really not that bad without the center channel in place.
Unless you have a center that matches your mains exactly and is placed at the same height then then phantom center is probably slightly better for a small sweetspot area. Center is really only needed for off axis listeners.
In a smaller sized rooms 14 x 20 or less, and IF your setup allows for a Ghost or Phantom center ch, its a matter of taste. IMO. I use one now matched to my mains and rear/surrounds in a 5.1 config.
Having just such a room size more or less, Ive done each setup, from 2.1 and up, to 5.1, with and without a center ch speaker. I do prefer a center ch speaker if I have a choice. Primarily for the added dimension and greater distinctiveness derived from it.
What bugs me more so than no center ch is how 7.1 processors (the current rage) work as 5.1 systems. They dont seem to have the same discrete/separated ch info, and more so seem to react as merely an older pro logic or surround sound field that has much less integral or distinctively differing ch info.
Ill be adding some dipole surrounds to my own rig asap and move my surrounds to be either actual rears, or vice versa. Its like you lose the rear of the sound field a lot more often setting surrounds towards the rear of the room sans actual surrounds . The pity here is this is not made mention of during any reviews Ive seen on such receivers and processors. With DVDs this isnt as large an item, yet it doesnt go without notice for sure. Consequently I am forced to switch about thru the available sound fields while viewing pretty often DD, DTS, Neo six, etc.to attain a more satisfactorily dispersed field.
Also, having one available for use, Id use it for sure. Not having one though, the price tag for such a matched unit in the past prevented me from getting one. I wasnt disappointed greatly by not owning one then either.
I guess Im saying we can be happy and have a nice array either way, with or without the center speaker, but Id not sell it if it was a matched unit, and on hand now.
"What bugs me more so than no center ch is how 7.1 processors (the current rage) work as 5.1 systems. They dont seem to have the same discrete/separated ch info, and more so seem to react as merely an older pro logic or surround sound field that has much less integral or distinctively differing ch info." --Blindjim
Really? That's interesting... I'm using my Onkyo 7.1 receiver with 5 speakers and a subwoofer and have had no such problem. I would say that it's sonically better in every way (except simplicity of use) than the Sherwood 5.1 receiver it replaced using all the same speakers and wiring.
You're not using your "side surround channels" as the "back surround channels" are you? What you're saying about the lack of dimensionality doesn't make sense to me.
Shadorne, you mknow I respect you and give you thumbs up all the time for your excellent advice but I really wish you wouldnt spread the matching center myth. There are so many speakers that are alteast VERY similar if not darn near identical that one can very easy get away with a carefully thought out non-matched option that will sound fantastic.....your too smart to not know that.
Not picking a fight and I really value your knowledge but this isnt one of those times.
BTW I run a center by same company now (VMPS) but have many times (as others have and do) not had that ability for several reasons and it can be done!
In close count me as one who says Center channel is better than none in almost every single situation. Cheers
Thanks to all who've taken the time to offer their opinions.
I'll run downstairs now and do some more watching/listening to see if I still feel the same about my absent center channel.
I've been contemplating purchasing the matching center channel for my Maxx 2's but have been utilizing the B&W HTM1 in the meantime. (Got a couple more upgrades higher in the food chain in the works.... shhhhh don't tell the wife!)
Once the holidays are over I'll think about putting the HTM1 back in it's spot to see how big of a difference it makes.
You could ask a dozen professional reviewers, speaker designers, audio equipment engineers, and retail av sales guys their opinions on such matters, and you'll most likely end up with variance across the board. I believe this is true. In fact, I've been around all of these people, heard their opinions, advice, and theories for years. Yes, that's why we all end up with different gear, make different choices, etc. In fact when you talk about these matters directly to some engineers in this business, you'll most emphatically get some very very passionate, heavily biased recommendations and views, as if God himself had spoken on the matter! Yeah, some are that opinionated - and passionately so, in many circumstances! It's like their identity..it's who they are. So, yeah, do weigh through the advise, and find out for yourself, if you really want to know.
Basically, what's ultimately right is what's right for you in the end - considering all the differing variables we all experience in our homes/setups, varied tastes, biases, preferences others recommend,whatever.
I personally would always recommend to any audio enthusiest who's trying to figure things out, that they first start out with what they find as advice from typical pro reviewers, and try to dissect as much as possible, even following their examples, looking at their personal system choices, etc. (heck, you can always try emailing them and asking what they think!). Then it might be easier to find a foundation from which to work from. After that though, to find out what personally YOU THINK is best for your tastes, you ultimately need to try some options to see what you think. That's THE only way! Otherwise, no matter what any of us recommends, you still have to chose whether you like chocolate of vanilla, desert or no desert, or even dinning alone or with company. It's all personal, and what you like might not be my cup, etc.
That all said, there are still always lots of variables at play, some or many of which you may or may not be aware are at play when you make choices - in this case, center or no center. I mean, you could very well chose to match a "matching center" with your stereo mains, from the same manufacture, which might be recommended by them as "the right speaker", and it could end up being a poor performer as a center, say! It could happen. The tonality may or may not ultimately be a good match. But, say, dynamics could be weak, or other factors, including some other technical differences. Also the same, you could have 3 matching L/C/R's across the front to substitute, and not like have em set up well, or they may all be not so good in your setup, whatever. Or, another VERY COMMON mistake is misplacing your center, acoustically in your room, or in relation to your seating arrangement - getting say bad off-axis tonality, weak dynamics, etc, like as in bad frequency response and poor crossover integration with the sub, etc.
So, it's not always so straight forward.
Still, my experience, and I think this is shared almost unanimously around the professional system designer, speaker maker, and pro reviewers view-points on the matter, that getting as close to matching speaker all across the front is a critical foundational choice! I would never start recommending to someone, who's looking to improve their system, that they can either forgo a center (which has unanimously been accepted and recommended by pro's for years now - most of which have seen hundreds of systems intimately, and tried it all), or used a different brand of speaker - whether they feel it sounds "close" to the others or not!
Bottom line, with all due respect to opinions (hey, I just recommend options and look for buying signals, and offer what I feel is best based on needs and desires), is that if you can't experience some first hand systems, and try to work with someone on recommendations and options, then you gotta get in there and try some stuff yourself, one variable at a time, and then you'll start to learn some things. Otherwise, it's a journey.
All of that dissertation aside (lol) and I would say is that all you have to do is experiment with your options and see what you come up with. Then tell us what you found. Me, I'd likely end up with it back in, if you have a wide enough spread, with any sort of mult-seating setup.
I really wish you wouldnt spread the matching center myth.
Well that is what they do in all the mix and mastering studios. They might use a smaller speaker from the same manufacturer for rears but they always use the same across the front.
If your criticism is that this is overly stringent and purist then I agree - for most people it certainly is.
Well, I was experimenting with speaker cables the other day, and I robbed the center channel cable in order to use it with the front L/R speakers. So I set the receiver for "none" on center speaker. I was surprised at how good it sounds without the center speaker, including a decent centering of dialog in the soundstage. My front towers are much bigger and go much lower than the center, so I guess that may be helping the overall sound. The thing is, if you have large, high quality towers for fronts, it is really hard and really expensive to integrate a center that is on par. I've tried several center speakers, but I never seem to be satisfied with the way dialog sounds through them-resonance in male and some female voices, resulting in indistince dialog. Maybe I just haven't tried a good enough center speaker.
I finally set up a 5.1 HT room, mostly 2 channel
center is a little more obvious than 2 ch front but blends well, you should be able to go either way
I'm using a newer B&W center with B&W Matrix 2's with no problem
I use the backs for the surrounds coming from an Arcam AVR350 (no HDMI audio 7.1 source)I go 5.1 speakers not 7.1
I will be going from a Pioneer BDP 05 Blu Ray with analog outs. Should I get 7.1 channel interconnects and then have the processor figure out how to reconfigure to 5.1 channel speaker configuration? thanks
You just hook up 5.1 not 7.1
Your Processor wont be able to figure anything out, Analog is Analog and its a direct input that pretty much goes directly to volume only. The Blu Ray will be where you establish speaker settings. All you need to do is hook up the surround outputs and not the surround backs then you will be all set.